While the exterior of the new 126,300-square-foot Arts & and Sciences Building at Indiana University Northwest is striking, it’s what happens inside that makes it so special.
Spanning a full city block and rising up three stories, the impressive structure, which took two years to build, is shared by IU Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College. This cooperative approach has been hailed as one answer to increasing the number of college graduates in the region, and ultimately leading to more jobs that require college degrees, pay better, and spur economic development.
A tour of the interior alongside Bonita Neff, chair of IU Northwest’s Departments of Communication, Fine Arts and Performing Arts, brings to light the myriad ways its cutting-edge technology will positively impact learning for students in the many degree programs housed in the building and enhance the competitive edge of future grads at both schools.
The advantages of innovation
Replete with smartly designed classrooms, studio spaces that rival that of the most prestigious art programs, and environments that spark creativity and collaboration, the building’s amenities will ensure learning at its highest level.
During a recent walk-through, Neff couldn’t wait to show off one innovative classroom, outfitted with circular tables, each with their own wall-mounted computer monitors.
“This is a great room for problem-solving,” Neff said. “I can group my class into teams and the entire class can share their perspectives and rotate their ideas around the room on these screens. Each group can add to the conversation and keep it moving. That sort of collaboration is more difficult to do in a traditional classroom.”
Continuing the walk-through, Neff gestures toward more spaces cleverly designed to maximize learning. The radio and television studio, for example, will have students producing their work in the same facilities they will find in the field. Advanced public relations students will be doing their work exactly the way a real agency would, by hosting clients at their own office, conferring with creative professionals and making presentations.
Moving at the speed of science
Ivy Tech will hold science classes in the building, and take advantage of the most modern equipment available in three labs, designed specifically for anatomy and physiology, biology and chemistry.
Dale Downs, Ivy Tech’s dean of liberal arts and sciences, and a physics professor, is excited about the ability to offer the type of advanced scientific instruction that just was not possible in the school’s current space.
“For instance,” Downs said, “we have not been able to offer organic chemistry at any of our classes in the region because we just didn’t have the lab facilities to do that. Now we can.”
Arts enhances all learning
When it comes to the arts, painters, photographers, sculptors and even costume designers, have airy, naturally lit spaces to inspire them and help them create and exhibit their best work. Upperclassmen will have their own spaces where they can display and have their art critiqued just as they would in a professional environment.
Downs explained that the heavy arts presence in the Arts & Sciences Building will benefit every student from both institutions, regardless of his or her area of study.
“The arts fosters an environment that brings people together,” Downs said. “The arts is about listening, and seeing other people’s point of view. It tends to build a culture of working together.
“The arts also helps develop the softer skills that are also valued by employers,” he added. “A lot of our employers, what they are telling us, is that they need not just the hard skills, but skills like critical thinking, integrity, professionalism and versatility. Exposure to the arts helps cultivate those skills.”
A competitive edge
Neff pointed out that the technology and innovation of the new building will translate directly to more opportunities in students’ respective fields, and their ability to remain competitive.
“They will be better trained and more prepared because they are more comfortable with the technology,” Neff said. “This will give them a chance to get better internships and present their credentials in larger markets such as in Chicago because they will have had hands-on experience with the most up-to-date equipment and in an environment where they know what it feels like to be in charge.”